Whether you’re in West Wales for a winter break or a summer holiday, visits to our historic sites are a real highlight – a wonderful day out whatever the weather. Here are our top 5 heritage sites to visit in Pembrokeshire, each with different attractions to inspire your imagination and fill your day with fun.
Come and visit a real live Iron Age village! Set high up on a hilltop and surrounded by woodland and lovely countryside, Castell Henllys is an example of living history and particularly fun for families, as well as amateur and not-so-amateur archaeologists! These huge roundhouses with their central hearths and thatch roofs reaching almost to the ground are archaeology brought to life, with the excavated structures recreated exactly where they once stood thousands of years ago. Once part of the Demetae tribe, the village would have originally been a community of up to 100 people. It consists of four roundhouses and a Granary. Now set among 30 acres of woodland and river meadows, the site includes a children’s play area, maze and riverside picnic site. There is prehistoric livestock grazing around the site, including Iron Age pigs, and local wildlife includes otters, bats and swallows. Activities include baking bread Iron Age-style, learning how to wattle and daub, spear-throwing, storytelling, costumed guided tours and experimental archaeology
St Davids Cathedral
St Davids Cathedral is perfect for rainy days and with much to explore, this site is steeped in Welsh Christian history. A church has been here since the 6th century when St David founded a monastery. Work started on the present cathedral in 1181, with the Bishop’s Palace built 1328-47. In its history it has been attacked by Vikings, visited by William the Conqueror and Henry II, and suffered during the Restoration under the reign of Henry VIII. Notable features include Edmund Tudor’s tomb near the high altar and the West Front, rebuilt by Nash. The Cathedral once held the relics of St David and St Justinian, but these were confiscated along with the jewels from St David’s shrine in order to prevent any “superstitions” from forming.
Pembroke Castle is one of the most spectacular castles in West Wales, this is an exciting day out for all the family. Set on a promontory half-surrounded by the waters of the Pembroke Estuary, this site provides a glimpse into medieval castle life. Once the birthplace of Harri Tewdwr in 1457, later Henry VII of England, there are lots of features to discover, with several stories still standing and many roofed sections still intact. Entertainment at Pembroke includes Living History days, Falconry, Brass-rubbing, Circus Days with juggling and stilt-walking, and opportunities to meet Baby Dragons from the Welsh Marches! Another striking feature is the Great Map of Wales, set out in the castle interior, and is great fun to run across. There are also Pythonesque plays, a Knight’s School, and Concert weekends that include ABBA Tributes and Jools Holland.
A short boat ride from Tenby Harbour off the Pembrokeshire coast, Caldey Island is perfect for those wanting a quiet and relaxing day out in a beautiful setting. Visit this modern working Cistercian monastery and learn about monastic life now and as it was in the past. The island has been inhabited since the Stone Age and a monastery has been here for the last thousand years. You can visit the Old Priory and two medieval churches, St David’s and St Illtud’s, and there are regular monastic services each day, held in the Abbey Church. A Video Centre and free guided walks provide information on life on the island and its history.
Other attractions include the chocolate factory, where you can watch the monks at work and buy their chocolate, shortbread and fudge, and the Perfume Shop where hand-made perfumes can be tried and purchased. Alternatively you can enjoy a peaceful picnic on the sandy beach at Priory Bay, perfect for children, and take a walk through the pretty village or up to the Lighthouse for views across the Gower peninsula and towards Lundy Island.
Carew Castle and Tidal Mill
The impressive Elizabethan facade of this former Norman castle stands out on the banks of Carew River estuary, viewed across the millpond by the Tidal Mill. Set in the peaceful countryside surrounded by pasture, resident bats have caused it to become a designated SSSI. This is a great opportunity to explore a medieval castle, take a walk, watch for wildlife and learn about the only restored Welsh tidal mill. Amenities include several beautiful picnic spots, Visitor Centre, The Castle Shop, The Mill Shop selling locally-milled flour, local honey and the equipment for crab-catching in the Mill Pond. This is also a good place to spot birds in the estuary, including kingfishers and sandpipers. Both shops sell refreshments. Nearby is an early Christian cross dedicated to Maredudd ap Edwin, an 11th-century Welsh prince.
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